After winning his second term, he began to talk about running for state comptroller or governor.

"I'm going to keep all those options open," he told The Baltimore Sun in 2011. "The record that I've established of strong fiscal discipline, I think, would resonate not only in Anne Arundel County but elsewhere."

But even then, he was facing a civil lawsuit for alleged gender discrimination.

During his two-week criminal trial, county employees testified that they agreed to his requests for help with political and personal tasks out of fear for their jobs.

Leopold's attorneys called him "enigmatic, idiosyncratic and unconventional." They described him as an unorthodox and independent boss who became dependent on the workers closest to him only after suffering crippling back pain.

"It has been a privilege to represent the citizens of Anne Arundel County for 26 years, both in the General Assembly and as County Executive," he wrote in his resignation letter. "I believe I have made a positive difference in the lives of county residents."

After his conviction this week, some of those residents said it was time for Leopold to go.

"If he's guilty, he's guilty," said Teddy Levitt, owner of Chick and Ruth's Delly in Annapolis, who was considering taking the John R. Leopold — a bowl of chicken soup — off the menu. Levitt said the executive appeared to have "overstepped his bounds."

Maryland Republican Chairman Alex X. Mooney called Leopold's fall "a bad ending to a long career."

"Obviously, it's unfortunate," he said. "He had his hearing, and he will have to face the consequences of what he did. …Now his time is over."

Dan Nataf isn't so sure.

"Never underestimate Leopold's desire to remain in politics," said Nataf, director of the Center for the Study of Local Issues at Anne Arundel Community College. Nataf said Leopold might consider a return to the General Assembly in 2014 as a delegate from his old district — and said he might have the skills to pull it off.

Anne Arundel County Council Vice Chairman John Grasso, Leopold's most vocal supporter on the council, said politicians have done worse and found their way back to public favor.

Grasso called Leopold "an upstanding guy who made some bad choices."

"I can tell you that if he runs again, like for the General Assembly, he'll win," the Glen Burnie Republican said.

Councilman Jamie Benoit, Leopold's most vocal council critic, called the resignation "the right thing to do."

"He spared the county another litigious, acrimonious process, and he spared us from another spectacle, and I certainly appreciate that he stepped up and resigned," the Crownsville Democrat said.

Under the county charter, the council has 30 days from Leopold's resignation Friday to replace him with a registered voter of the same party who has lived in the county for the past four years, according to Walker, the council chairman.

Several Republicans had already been considering a run for executive in 2014, when Leopold was to have reached his two-term limit. His resignation has now sped up that process.

State Del. Steve Schuh of Gibson Island and Grasso have said they would apply for the job of completing Leopold's second term. Former U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino of Severna Park, state Sen. Ed Reilly of Crofton and Walker, of Gambrills, have said they are considering it.